see also Authorities impose curfew in capital of Colombia, deploy 20k police against protesters
Colombia’s militarized anti-riot Police (Esmad) violently dispersed protesters with tear gas on Thursday in the Plaza de Bolívar de Bogotá as they were blocking roads at the end of the demonstrations against the economic and social policy of the Government of President Iván Duque.
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Bogota’s government secretary, Ivan Casas, said on Thursday that more than 4,000 police have been deployed on the streets.
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In other departments of the country, organizations of students, indigenous people, campesinos and workers also took part of the anti-austerity protests.
In the densely populated Suba district of northwestern Bogota, some subway stations also were intermittently blocked and the police assaulted the demonstrators at the Portal de Suba terminus station.
A crowd shouting “el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” (the people united will never be defeated) jeered police who had arrived at the scene and fired tear gas to disperse groups of people blocking different entrances to the station.
Colombia’s main organizations of workers, farmers, and students reject Duque’s neoliberal policy package, which seeks to eliminate the state-based pension fund, increase the retirement age and hire young people with salaries below the minimum wage.
Progressive parties and organizations also require the right-wing government to demonstrate a greater commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement and more protection to the lives of social leaders, who have been victims of selective killings executed by “unidentified” paramilitary groups.
Since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016, at least 777 social leaders and 137 former guerrilla fighters have been killed in Colombia, according to the Institute for Development and Peace (Indepaz).
Several separate marches converged on Bolivar Square, the historic center of the capital close to the presidency.
“We are marching because in Colombia we are tired of corruption, of impunity, that the government does nothing for the poor,” Olga Canon, 55, told AFP.
Organizations that participated in the strike take issue with Duque’s security policy as well as attempts to introduce a more flexible labour market, weaken public pension funds and raise the retirement age.
Students are demanding more funding for education, while indigenous communities insist on greater protection in remote areas where 134 activists have been killed since Duque came to power in August 2018.
‘Afraid to march’
“We are very afraid to march in the streets but we do it anyway because the state is spreading so much fear with its militarization and by closing the borders,” political science student Valentina Gaitan, 21, told AFP.
The borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela were closed until Friday to avoid any threat to “public order and security,” authorities said.
Duque, who does not hold a majority in parliament, suffers from a 69 percent unpopularity rating, according to polls. His party, the Democratic Center (CD), suffered serious setbacks in October local elections.
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